How Apache Spark makes your slow MySQL queries 10x faster

Slow MySQL QueriesIn this blog post, we’ll discuss how to improve the performance of slow MySQL queries using Apache Spark.

In my previous blog post, I wrote about using Apache Spark with MySQL for data analysis and showed how to transform and analyze a large volume of data (text files) with Apache Spark. Vadim also performed a benchmark comparing the performance of MySQL and Spark with Parquet columnar format (using Air traffic performance data). That works great, but what if we don’t want to move our data from MySQL to another storage (i.e., columnar format), and instead want to use “ad hock” queries on top of an existing MySQL server? Apache Spark can help here as well.

Speed up Slow MySQL Queries

Using Apache Spark on top of the existing MySQL server(s) (without the need to export or even stream data to Spark or Hadoop), we can increase query performance more than ten times. Using multiple MySQL servers (replication or Percona XtraDB Cluster) gives us an additional performance increase for some queries. You can also use the Spark cache function to cache the whole MySQL query results table.

The idea is simple: Spark can read MySQL data via JDBC and can also execute SQL queries, so we can connect it directly to MySQL and run the queries. Why is this faster? For long-running (i.e., reporting or BI) queries, it can be much faster as Spark is a massively parallel system. MySQL can only use one CPU core per query, whereas Spark can use all cores on all cluster nodes. In my examples below, MySQL queries are executed inside Spark and run 5-10 times faster (on top of the same MySQL data).

In addition, Spark can add “cluster” level parallelism. In the case of MySQL replication or Percona XtraDB Cluster, Spark can split the query into a set of smaller queries (in the case of a partitioned table it will run one query per each partition for example) and run those in parallel across multiple slave servers of multiple Percona XtraDB Cluster nodes. Finally, it will use map/reduce the type of processing to aggregate the results.

I’ve used the same “Airlines On-Time Performance” database as in previous posts. Vadim created some scripts to download data and upload it to MySQL. You can find the scripts here: I’ve also used Apache Spark 2.0, which was released July 26, 2016.

Apache Spark Setup

Starting Apache Spark in standalone mode is easy. To recap:

  1. Download the Apache Spark 2.0 and place it somewhere.
  2. Start master
  3. Start slave (worker) and attach it to the master
  4. Start the app (in this case spark-shell or spark-sql)


To connect to Spark we can use spark-shell (Scala), pyspark (Python) or spark-sql. Since spark-sql is similar to MySQL cli, using it would be the easiest option (even “show tables” works). I also wanted to work with Scala in interactive mode so I’ve used spark-shell as well. In all the examples I’m using the same SQL query in MySQL and Spark, so working with Spark is not that different.

To work with MySQL server in Spark we need Connector/J for MySQL. Download the package and copy the mysql-connector-java-5.1.39-bin.jar to the spark directory, then add the class path to the conf/spark-defaults.conf:

Running MySQL queries via Apache Spark

For this test I was using one physical server with 12 CPU cores (older Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU L5639 @ 2.13GHz) and 48G of RAM, SSD disks. I’ve installed MySQL and started spark master and spark slave on the same box.

Now we are ready to run MySQL queries inside Spark. First, start the shell (from the Spark directory, /usr/local/spark in my case):

Then we will need to connect to MySQL from spark and register the temporary view:

So we have created a “datasource” for Spark (or in other words, a “link” from Spark to MySQL). The Spark table name is “ontime” (linked to MySQL ontime.ontime_part table) and we can run SQL queries in Spark, which in turn parse it and translate it in MySQL queries.

partitionColumn” is very important here. It tells Spark to run multiple queries in parallel, one query per each partition.

Now we can run the query:

MySQL Query Example

Let’s go back to MySQL for a second and look at the query example. I’ve chosen the following query (from my older blog post):

The query will find the total number of delayed flights per each airline. In addition, the query will calculate the smart “ontime” rating, taking into consideration the number of flights (we do not want to compare smaller air carriers with the large ones, and we want to exclude the older airlines who are not in business anymore).

The main reason I’ve chosen this query is that it is hard to optimize it in MySQL. All conditions in the “where” clause will only filter out ~70% of rows. I’ve done a basic calculation:

Table structure: